Deeplight by Frances Hardinge
Despite being an orphaned street kid, Hark is lucky – for most of his life, the Gods of the Undersea have been dead and unable to reign with terror upon the islands. He spends his life running scams with his best friend, the dangerous-to-know Jelt, while always, like most islanders, keeping an eye out for any Godware – valuable pieces of the gods’ corpses that wash up from the ocean. When Hark is abandoned by Jelt mid-job, he is caught and, like all criminals, auctioned off to be indentured to the highest bidder. Dr Vyne, a local scientist, sees something in him worth using and Hark avoids the mines, instead stumbling into something much darker and much more dangerous.
Like all of Frances Hardinge’s books, Deeplight is set in a unique world. The gods of this world were giant, angry monsters of the deep; they lived in an ocean under the ocean, the Undersea. The description of the waves of the Undersea violently interacting with the regular ocean is as poetic as anything I’ve ever read. Every new thing you learn about the world of Deeplight has you nodding ‘of course’. And then, in this complete, deep and intensely interesting world, there is an even more interesting story with fabulous, strong and brave, and sneaky and hateful, protagonists. Each one feels as real as the world they’re set in.
Deeplight is perfect for all lovers of big, meaty stories and is highly recommended for strong readers aged 12+.